The season started slowly with the club failing to get past the first stage in both the F.A. Cup & F.A. Vase following defeats to lower league opposition in Brigg Town & Sherwood Colliery. August was a month with mixed results but with plenty of positives in the teams performances as was to be expected with a squad which had plenty of new faces. The Cobras managed 3 wins out of 6 with the highlight being a spectacular performance away to Bridlington Town with a double from Josh Nodder.
By September the Cobras were known for their defensive qualities rather than their goalscoring ability, a solid back four in Rob Paling, Joe Austin, Chris Salt & Michael Trench seemed to be earning the plaudits in each game and only conceded two goals in 5 games. Clipstone also held league winners Cleethorpes Town to a 1-1 draw with a 90th minute equaliser from Ryan Smyth.
In general performances continued to be inconsistent during October as Clipstone lost our key defensive duo Chris Salt & Joe Austin to Stamford & A.F.C. Mansfield respectively, leaving manager Billy Fox to find key replacements. The Cobras taking 4 points out of a possible 15 during the month, with defeats to Liversedge, Harrogate Railway & Handsworth Parramore, a disappointing draw against Retford United and a hope win against Albion Sports.
Unfortunately we also lost top scorer and potential player of the year Josh Nodder to Stamford. With Nodder’s exit pushing for a starting place in his preferred central striking role youngster George Milner was keen to impress when given the opportunity to start. His performances along with fellow forward Sam Forster helped Clipstone take 9 points out of 12 in November, combining to score 5 goals and numerous assists put the Cobras back on track.
In what has recently been a strong tournament for Clipstone, the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup, where we have reached the final in the last two seasons, the Cobras were knocked out after penalties against Rainworth Miners Welfare in December. Bridlington managed to get their revenge on the Clipstone victory earlier in the season when they beat the Cobras 5-1. After a poor start in December Clipstone improved, drawing with A.F.C Mansfield before beating Barton & Worksop Town over the Christmas period. Billy Fox seemingly finding what the club had been missing since the departure of Nodder in the creative presence of Kier Hannity.
As the new year began Clipstone saw defeats to Worksop & Thackley before the shock announcement that chairman Dave Paling tendered his resignation to the club with manager Billy Fox as well as other committee members also confirming their departure. The club had to restructure and moved fast to appoint local lad Ian Cotton as manager as well as bringing in new committee members.
It was a huge job for the new manager with only 2 players confirming they would stay at the club from the current squad. Both Ian and Malc Holmes moved quickly to sign a squad with at least 16 players joining the club within 5 days. The first game under the new regime was a 4-0 defeat against Garforth Town before being knocked out of the League Cup competition away to opponents Penistone Church after extra time.
It took a while for the players to get used to the pace of the league and improvements in performances came in mid-February against Pickering & Bottesford Town. After a season of inconsistency, the new squad asse
mbled by Cotton were rewarded with the 3 points they had been craving. Clipstone took on Albion Sports in what was a stellar performance from the Cobras. Goals from Curtis, Rodgers, Walker & Ward as well as a magnificent goalkeeping display from Gary Doncaster were enough to see Clipstone take their first 3 points since boxing day. Results and performances continued to improve, with further victories against Retford United & high flying Handsworth Parramore.
To conclude, after plenty of ups and downs the new Cobras can hold their heads high and look forward to next season in the NCEL Premier Division under the guidance of manager Ian Cotton and his assistants Michael Wain and Ian Birtley.
Season review by Mark Asher & Daniel Walker.